Choose the leadership style that works best for your team | Daily News


Leading your flock into greener pastures – Part 25

Choose the leadership style that works best for your team


When you take a hard look at successful leaders, you’ll notice not all have become successful the same way. The truth is there are a number of different leadership styles. And no single one of those styles is the “correct” style.

In fact, most of the leaders you admire meld several styles to lead. Sometimes they are charismatic. Other times they are participative, and from time to time circumstances will force them into using a situational leadership style.

Last week we looked at three basic approaches to leadership style – (1) challenging and focused on targets, (2) supportive of individual people and (3) Laissez-Faire or leadership without interference.

Today we discuss few other primary styles most leaders use. Some of the iconic leaders have used those styles successfully.


Charismatic leaders connect at a personal level and they can convey an extraordinary sensitivity to people’s needs. Research says that charisma is not an always-on aura that only special people possess. Everyone has some degree of it, and when you can identify the traits that make you charismatic, the traits that draw other people to you, you can develop those traits further.

Charisma can be dangerous if you over-use it or rely on it too heavily. People charge up the hill for a manager with charisma and that can be a recipe for burnout.


How would you like to lead an organization where employees are fully engaged and regularly bring new ideas to the table, then chomp at the bit until you give them the go-ahead to run with it? If so, you might want to spend some time practicing something called participative leadership.

This is a style of leadership in which the leader involves subordinates in goal setting, problem solving, team building, etc., but retains the final decision-making authority. Participative leadership values the input of team members and peers, while the ultimate responsibility of making the final decision rests with the participative leader.

This style is a natural morale booster because employees make contributions to the decision-making process, which helps make them feel their opinions matter. The downside: too many cooks can spoil the soup. Still, this participative leadership style helps employees accept changes because they play a role in the process.


Ever wonder what would happen if you tried to lead by yelling and screaming and stomping? It’s working right now for Kim Jong-un in North Korea.

While the authoritarian leadership style has its shortcomings, it also has a long history of success, even if only short-lived success.

Which is its short-coming? Authoritarian leaders, also known as autocratic, provide clear expectations for what needs to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done. There is also a clear division between the leader and the followers. Authoritarian leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the rest of the group. Got it!


Coaching is a leadership style that develops people by offering hands-on advice to problem solving. If this style were summed up in a phrase, it would be “Try this.” The coaching style works best when the leader wants to help staff build lasting personal and professional strengths that make them more successful overall.

To rely on a coaching style requires a strong leadership mindset in that you have to believe in yourself first, and sell it. The coaching style adheres to the theory that to be successful, you must understand that people come before spreadsheets.

In other words, if the coach successfully puts the professional growth of the team first, the spread sheet results will follow. Coaching has become so popular in the business world because it levels the playing field and promotes individual and team excellence.


An affiliative leader builds harmony among his or her followers with a strong eye toward solving interpersonal conflicts.

This type of leader will also build teams that make sure that their followers feel connected to each other. This leader is a master at establishing positive relationships. Because the followers really like their leader, they are loyal, share information, and have high trust, all of which helps climate.

The affiliative leader gives frequent positive feedback, helping to keep everyone on course. However poor performance tends to go unchecked.


Transformational leadership boosts morale, motivation, and performance by creating a singular sense of identity and purpose for a project, and getting people to embrace it. A transformational leader is a role model who inspires others and makes them want to take greater ownership for their work. As such, it requires a heightened understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of people, so the leader can align staff with tasks that enhance each individual’s own performance.


Bureaucratic leadership is most commonly on display in large, classically-corporate organizations. The bureaucratic style is born out of a mandatory obedience to authority that is both ingrained and enforced over time. “Followers” simply do as they are told because it is both easier and safer to follow the chain of command.

In such very-defined structures, influence and authority is based on position. It is more a management style, than a true leadership style. But because the bureaucratic approach can leverage a great deal of influence to move lots of people in a certain direction, it inecomes an effective leadership tool.


When someone begins taking on tasks voluntarily, helping others do their jobs better and encouraging consensus among co-workers, this person is an emergent leader. This type of leadership is distinguished by the leader stepping up before being formally given a leadership title. Emergent leaders make it clear by their actions they are ready for the next promotion.

The key element of emergent leadership is that it emerges over a period of time from a highly respected person not initially meant to lead. Co-workers actually come to expect this type of leader to demonstrate more empathy for the employee than the employer. This can be a real pitfall in cases where the emergent leaders’ sides with management on a touch issue, leaving co-workers to feel betrayed.


Pacesetters are obsessed with getting things done faster and better. On the surface, there is a lot to admire about that quality. But when you look beneath, and there can be a lot of baggage that comes with being a Pacesetter.

These folks set the bar high for themselves and others. What’s more, they’d never ask others to do something they wouldn’t’ do. Sounds great, for a while.

But there is little room for niceties with this style, as pacesetters are stingy with praise and quick to criticize. Employees are often overwhelmed by the pacesetter’s demands for excellence, and morale soon drops. One reason pacesetters tend to get their own hands dirty is they fail to communicate goals clearly.


Situation leadership is what you do when you practice every style of leadership on this article at the situations requires. Situational leaders have no single style but adapt their leadership style as needed. They not only adapt themselves and their personal styles, but they may also need to adopt the goals, responsibilities and tasks based on the experience and performance of the group. Effective situational leadership varies person to person and group to group depending on the functions that need to be accomplished.

Excelling through trial and error

You need to work continually on enhancing your skills in modifying your leadership style to suit the needs of different situations by treating all situations as opportunities to expand your knowledge and experience. Use the following techniques to learn through trial and error:

(1) Step outside of your comfort zone and become more comfortable at being uncomfortable when challenging or supporting - depending on your natural style - your colleagues.

(2) Become more self-aware and sensitive in order to notice how you impact on your work colleagues through switching on your senses.

(3) Reflect on your experiences by using logs. Seek feedback from your colleagues about how your style affects them using the Johari Window (which we discussed earlier).

Strive to develop a leadership style in which you’re normally putting an equally high emphasis on the following:

(1) Achieving the objectives that you and your team have to achieve and enabling members of your team to satisfy their needs through working towards those objectives.

(2) Challenging and supporting everyone in your team to achieve and maintain high standards of work and behaviour in working together.

(3) Being bold in leading with conviction and being sensitive to appreciating how you’re impacting on the attitudes and performance of each member of your team.

Often ask yourself two questions: ‘(1) What work objective or result do I want to achieve?’ Am I absolutely clear in my own mind about what I want to achieve, and can I articulate this objective clearly? (2) ‘To what extent do I need to enthuse people?’ Should I be really enthusiastic and upbeat or adopt a quieter approach in explaining the importance of this work?

And make sure that you modify your style accordingly.

(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired company director with over 35 years’ experience in senior business management. Presently he is a business consultant, freelance newspaper columnist and a writer. He could be contacted on [email protected])

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